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Paying Ourselves Back part II

November 29th, 2017 at 04:25 pm

We are still working hard at paying ourselves back for some long term costs...

Dog Fence - $591 left to pay off (but the fence is done and it's GREAT! We can let our dog out on her own now!)

Medical Expenses - $287

Estimated Taxes - $630 (and I would really love to get this paid off asap because our next estimated taxes are due in January. We should have it paid off in December some time).

Fully Fund IRAs for the year - $600 - This is budgeted and will be fully funded by Dec.! Yay!

After all of these are paid off, we will start bolstering our emergency fund/savings.

Thanksgiving Expenses

November 28th, 2017 at 04:22 pm

Things are quiet around here... we just got back from a trip to my parents' for Thanksgiving.

Because my brother is vegan and would not attend if the food wasn't ALL vegan (so no turkey, no butter, no cheese), it was a pretty inexpensive Thanksgiving in terms of food. I told him that since his diet is very restrictive, he should probably do the cooking and he agreed. I just had to make a salad and salad dressing. He did tell me "No one eats salad dressing anymore" but I made it anyway. I like salad dressing. (In case you are wondering, what people do now is just drizzle a little bit of balsamic, but I have a really nice recipe with red wine vinegar. Everyone ate the salad, even with dressing on it). I am being sarcastic and snarky, but I don't care.

So, the expenses I did not need to pay for:
- Hotel room (we usually stay with my mom but she didn't want anyone staying there and got a couple of hotel rooms which were she paid for).
- Lunch on Wednesday (my mom had cleaned out her refrigerator for Thanksgiving and asked us to go out to eat when we arrived, but she wanted to reimburse us which was nice)
- Rental car, because my mom let us use her car which was really nice!
- Entertainment - Because we hung out with cousins, had the Friday family soccer game, walked on the Third Street Promenade with my brother and his girlfriend. It was fun!
- Shopping - the only thing we bought was a magazine for F (that is her usual treat when we visit my parents).

Expenses we did pay for (total about $325):
- Uber to and from the airport ($25 each way!) but my mom couldn't pick us up...
- Dinner out on Wednesday night (my mom did not want any un-needed cooking at her house); we had sushi!
- Sandwiches for me and F for lunch on Thursday before Thanksgiving; my mom went and got sandwiches for everyone but us because we have to eat Gluten Free and she didn't understand that she could ask for GF bread, so we walked down to the Whole Foods and had lunch together. Good mother-daughter time which we both loved because there were a lot of people around - like a mini-escape!)
- Petsitting - Wonderful woman and I left her extra because we've paid off the house and I hope she can use it for Christmas!
- Turkey Trot 5k for the three of us - F did really well! She came in 8th out of 133 for girls 14 and under.

I hope you had a nice Thanksgiving, too! Hope your food was better than ours, though. Snarky again.

Trip Planned

November 17th, 2017 at 06:35 pm

We purchased the tickets for our trip back to Ireland... we will get the tickets to the UK later (I think we are flying into Bristol from Dublin to be close to D's dad in Gloucester).

We are going in late June and D is coming home about 4 days before F and I. We'll stay a couple of extra days with friends. We'll just hang out and I'll show her all of my favorite spots, since the last time she was there, she was nearly 5 but doesn't remember much. Also - she has an Irish name, and has never met anyone else with her name, so we are trying to arrange a party where our friends come and bring other girls with her name!

We'll go to the seaside (we have the Rio Grande, but that's the only body of water near us!). We'll go down to Mary and Henry Streets and to D's alma mater (Trinity). We'll go to the Botanic Gardens at Glasnevin and up to the castle at Malahide. Maybe out to Powerscourt if we get a nice day! Howth or Dun Laoghaire. So looking forward to seeing our friends, too!

The tickets were paid for by saving money each month and credit card rewards. We have been saving for two years (since the last trip). We still have about $3400 in our vacation account even after buying the plane tickets!!

Update on our payback to ourselves:
Estimated Taxes - $635 to go
Medical - $387
Fence project - $777

The fence and gate are finished and it's such a relief. We can now let our dog out in a secure area. Where we live there are very few fences... no fences between properties. It's unusual, and sort of annoying. We had to get approval from the neighborhood association to build this fence.

Financing my own Debt

November 7th, 2017 at 06:35 pm

I use YNAB, and I think a lot of you do as well, but I don't use it exactly as it's meant to be used. Sometimes I let a category go negative for a few months, and rather than moving money from other categories to cover it, I just pay down the negative over several months. I guess I could move money around, but for me this lets me keep track better.

It works because the other categories have plenty of money in them and we live on the previous month's income, so there is always enough money in our checking account.

So here are the things I'm self-financing right now:
- Current household project- fenced in area for our dog - this is at -$94
- Unexpected medical expenses -$257
- Estimated taxes from September - $635

I used extra money this month and set up a math problem so I was allocating it to each debt proportionally. I like math!

We should have all of these paid off before Christmas. Just in time for another estimated tax payment in January!

Update

November 3rd, 2017 at 08:45 pm

It's been forever since I've written anything!

I am trying hard to keep spending under control, and there are a few things that are messing with my plan. I can't be too upset, though, since D is making more at his new job and there is money left over each month.

1. Karate - because of all of F's sports (schedule conflicts), we are having her do private lessons once a week. It's not cheap. But it is really worth it particularly in terms of her confidence.

2. Medical Costs - I have been going to a psychologist once a month to get strategies/techniques for F for her anxiety. It is well worth it, and the best part is that the woman I'm seeing doesn't require F to go. She offers this as an alternative for kids who already have a lot in their schedules or who feel like there's stigma to seeing a counselor. She has some GREAT techniques and comments. Middle school is hard, and even harder for a kid with anxiety!

3. Food Costs - Combination of out-of-town visitors and just higher prices. It's been hard to stay in budget. Also, I have to spend a lot on nuts and avocados and other good protein for F is constantly on the move.

So, what's been up?
- I had a birthday (but my birthdays are inexpensive because it's Halloween and mostly we just go trick-or-treating"
- F was asked to run varsity x-country next year
- We have new soccer coaches and they are AMAZING - two women which is great for girls this age. And they are young and enthusiastic and used to play professionally.
- F is on the basketball team, and she rode the bus down to Albuquerque for a game, which is a lot of progress!
- D's sister came to visit and wore so many oils (sandalwood, cedarwood, patchouli, and a bunch of other stuff) that we are still trying to get the smell out of D's car; I can't ride in it.
- My dad is in the hospital (had back surgery, went home, fell three times and was back in the hospital in less than a week). He'll now go to rehab which is where he should have gone in the first place.
- My brother is in Singapore (has been in Jakarta, Bali, Singapore and Vietnam in the past month) and will go to Japan before Thanksgiving.
- We had our big Turkey Fight of 2017, and we are not having turkey at Thanksgiving. We are not sure yet if it's going to be a vegan Thanksgiving (what my brother wants). I don't care anymore; although I love butter and cheese, I guess I can have them at home.
- Going for ice cream today!

Ebates, Meal Plan, Found a Starbucks Card

August 21st, 2017 at 02:14 am

Lots going on in the "very small amounts of money" financial world.

Ebates - I got an email from Ebates that said they are sending me a check for $8.06.

Meal Plan - First week back at school and we planned carefully for breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner!
Breakfasts - bagel/cream cheese, english muffin with slices of cheese, toast with marmite, homemade granola
Lunches - out to the little sandwich place by my office the day before school starts, mains: chimichurri rice with salad, turkey wrap, caprese "sandwich"
Snacks - string cheese, avocado, chocolate milk, cheese and crackers, nuts and fruit, hardboiled egg
Dinners:
- tuna melts with salad
- asian meatballs with rice, rocket salad
- frito pies (special request for the first day of school)
- bad breath pasta and a crostata for dessert
- baked potatoes with broccoli and cheese

Starbucks Card - I found this in my old wallet. No idea if it's expired or has any money on it. I think someone gave it to me as a gift, but I'm not a big starbucks fan. But F likes the cream frappacinos.

Gym Payment - Haven't gotten payment for July yet - grrrr!

New Gym - I am teaching an additional class at another gym in town now, starting next Thursday. Need to update CPR ($25). But they pay more per class, so that's good!

New Phone - No, I am not getting a new phone. TMobile has a deal where they pay you $300 for your trade-in and you get an iphone 7 on installment. My iphone 5 is worth pretty much nothing, so $300 would have been a good deal. But I decided not to do it. D says I should wait until the iphone 8 is out. I am not sure. I'm not good at making purchases and this makes me nervous. Plus I just got a new vacuum cleaner, so that's it for 2017.

A Day at the "Beach"!

August 20th, 2017 at 03:40 am

I know - we don't live anywhere near the ocean. But we do have a beach about half an hour away... it's the beach at Cochiti Lake and it's really fun. It was a $5 parking fee, plus we got salads and sandwiches and cookies at Trader Joe's ($15.96 total).

F starts school next week, so this is our last real summer weekend.

I blew up my floating lounge chair thingy (it really is ridiculous, but so fun) and we set up our camping tent for shade. We hung out in the water, and it was great! It's not a fancy place, but lots of cute kids and nice families.

Right now F is at an end-of-summer pool party at a country club to celebrate her friends' bar and bat mitzvahs earlier in the summer (the did it in NYC where the grandparents are). We got them each a gift certificate to Amazon, but that was paid for with money in the "gifts for others" category. It is fully funded.

I want to figure out something fun (and frugal) for tomorrow, too. Maybe a hike.

OK, need to go pick F up from the party...

Mortgage Paid Off! Weird! And Good! But Weird!

August 13th, 2017 at 09:46 pm

It's been a bittersweet week for me - given all of the things that are going on in the country and the world right now I am really profoundly sad and also scared, but we also paid of the mortgage last Monday.

I haven't felt like writing about it, but this is a blog about money not current events or politics or anything like that, so I am determined to celebrate this huge milestone!

On Monday we went into the bank and paid off the remainder of our mortgage. This is the month that D has three paychecks (he is paid every other week rather than twice a month and we decided to live off two paychecks each month and use the two extra each year as a "bonus"). So we used that extra paycheck plus the amount the bank has in escrow (don't worry, we have saved our own "escrow" for taxes and insurance).

Our bank doesn't charge anything for a payoff statement, and they don't charge anything for payoff except the $30 to record the release of the lien at the County.

I checked into all of this ahead of time. All we owed was the remaining mortgage less the escrow plus $30.

It hasn't really sunk in yet... I guess it will when that mortgage payment DOESN'T come out of our account on the 2nd of next month.

I am now busy drawing up a new budget. According to the YNAB philosophy, "every dollar has a job" even if that job is savings. We have to fund a few categories before the budget is really set (I want to make sure we max our our IRAs before the year is over so that's an extra $600 per month... things like that).

Actually the first time it sort of hit me that this is real was in Trader Joe's today. I usually buy the $2.79 cage free/hormone free eggs, but then I saw the organic/free range eggs for $3.99, and I bought a dozen of those. It's $1.20 more, but I want to see if they are as good as the eggs we used to get in Ireland. And I could make a decision like that, whereas before I never would have.

On the other hand, I am going to get me hair cut next week at Great Clips with a coupon. I don't need to spend money for no reason!

PS - F rode her unicycle into the bank for a festive atmosphere when we went in to pay off our mortgage! It was funny! And we ran into our City Councilor from our district who told us congratulations.

PPS - The other things I did this week are called the insurance company to let them know that we'll now pay for the insurance ourselves. Also made sure that I turned off the mortgage auto-payment on the online banking site. And I still need to contact the County to make sure we get the bill for property taxes and not our bank.

Menu Planning - Pantry/Freezer Use

July 29th, 2017 at 10:12 pm

Our grocery spending was high this month. Ugh. And I still have to do one more shopping trip before the month is over (tomorrow).

The reason is partly that the dr. told us that F needs to try a gluten free diet for a month. I have celiac, and she just had the celiac blood test. I am hoping it's negative, but even if it is, we're supposed to try the gf diet. She loves tortillas (wraps and burritos instead of sandwiches), and the brown rice tortillas are pretty awful, so I splurged on the Rudi's brand. They are tiny... so I used two to make two mini burritos. I also bought her gf english muffins.

The menu plan for this week takes advantage of things that I already have in the freezer and pantry.

Risotto - we already have risotto rice and sundried tomatoes. Just need celery
Cockaleekie Pie - from the freezer; and we have lettuce for a side salad
Chili - we have that in the freezer, too. Just need an avocado.
Tuna melts with corn - can use the celery for the risotto and corn is inexpensive right now
Chipotle sweet potatoes with roasted veggies on the side - a couple of sweet potatoes is all we need to buy
Chicken piccata with rice and broccoli - just need one lemon and some broccoli
Quesadillas and guacamole - An avocado for the guacamole

So our grocery list:
- avocados
- celery
- sliced turkey for lunches
- sour cream
- cheddar for lunches
- sweet potatoes
- broccoli
- tomatoes for lunches
- head of lettuce
- corn on the cob
- one lemon

Hopefully less than $30.

D's New Job

July 26th, 2017 at 01:56 pm

D got his first "real" paycheck of his new job (the previous paychecks were not really representative - one had fewer hours, one didn't have the 401k taken out yet, etc).

I learned a couple of things;
- Money put into the 401k is not subject to federal withholding but is subject to social security and medicare; didn't know that because we've never been eligible for a 401k before
- Because the paycheck is every two weeks, we are treating the extra two he receives each year as a "bonus" and we're not budgeting it. So we'll live off 24 paychecks rather than 26.
- Each paycheck will be $362 more than the old job plus since my business doesn't need to provide healthcare anymore, I will be paying myself extra to cover the health insurance that gets deducted from D's paycheck. That cuts my business expenses by $272 each month.
- Net gain from his last job is $544 per month (and $272 less in business expenses).

And D likes his job!

Company picnic (I've never been to a company picnic before!) is this weekend. D has to work for an hour and a half of it. I'm not completely sure what to expect from a company picnic. There will be A LOT of people. I know people that work up there, but we'll probably have to find each other with our mobile phones. There are THAT MANY people!

Other stuff related to D's new job:
- I am still working full time, too
- He has a few weekend and evening events (one is tonight - a lecture series) so F and I are on our own for dinner, which is pretty fun (time together).
- It's a longer commute, so I will report back on the gas usage later. Our cars are fuel-efficient, but they are still fuel (not electric).

Paying Ourselves Back

July 16th, 2017 at 12:04 am

With D's new job, we are getting very close to paying the bank back (mortgage is right at $5k!!) and paying ourselves back (sometimes WE are the bank).

​Paying the Bank Back...
Mortgage is at $5058.07. I had a weird moment where I couldn't understand why the payoff amount on the website was less than what we owe, and then I realized that it's the escrow they've collected. They have about $600 in escrow and when we make our August payment it'll be $900. But we will need to save $300 each month from August through November for the next property tax payment.

Paying ourselves back:
Our estimated tax payment is $2119 every quarter. We are a little behind and still owe ourselves $2033. Next payment is due in September.

Paying ourselves back:
We need to repay our emergency savings $1280.

IRAs:
We will need an extra $2400 this year to fully fund our Roth IRAs. I think we'll be able to do this with D's new job.

The future:
We need a dog fence, but I haven't gotten prices yet.

This is all very intimidating, but we just have to keep plugging away. And now I am off to make a frugal dinner!

Meal Plan and Folk Art Market

July 9th, 2017 at 07:34 pm

I bought too many groceries. We will eat it all, so I'm not worried about it, but sometimes I just buy more than my meal plan calls for. We do have to have food for lunches, etc. I also bought pasta which will last us a long time; we have pasta once a week.

Here is the meal plan:

last night - Bad Breath pasta
tonight - Pad Thai with shrimp
M - tostadas
T - lemon-crumbed fish with broccoli and potatoes
W - Music on the Hill (we will stop and each get a premade salad at Trader Joe's (that's our night out)
T - pasta carbonara with asparagus
F - food at Folk Art Market

We got two FREE tickets to each event at Folk Art Market as a thank you for my volunteer work. The opening night party is an amazing event (I've worked it before, but never attended). There's a lot of food, so we'll eat for free. We have to wait until F's basketball practice is over, then we'll bring her to her friend's house which is right near the party. Then pick her up at 9 or so. We never go out, so this is exciting.

F and I will go to the Early Bird Market the next morning. Early bird opens and 7:30 am, and we're going to try to get there when it opens; that way it will be less crowded and still cool.

I am giving her $20 and she can buy something if she wants or keep the $20 for later. I, on the other hand, don't want to buy anything at all! I am contemplating a garage sale... need to talk to my neighbor to see if she wants to join in...

Shutterfly Coupon

July 9th, 2017 at 02:02 am

Got an amazing coupon for our annual Shutterfly album... it expires tomorrow...

Actually two coupons...
1. UNLIMITED - you get unlimited extra pages in your album for free
2. SAVEFORTY - 40% off

So we got a 111-page photo album for about $40. I have $156 in the Shutterfly category, so I can take some to pay down the mortgage.

We had a lot of photos in 2016... apparently we got a lot done last year... soccer camp for F, meeting her hero Meghan Klingenberg, trip to CA to see my parents, our nephew coming to stay for over a month, Thanksgiving and the big trip to England and Croatia.

Anyway, I thought I'd mention the deal in case anyone is interested, has a project finished but you haven't ordered yet, etc...

Here's a photo of Rovinj, Croatia...



Back from Our Trip to CA

July 1st, 2017 at 02:25 am

We are back from our trip to California! It was GREAT and it was also NOT GREAT. But mostly GREAT.

The not great:
- My mother has a lot of trouble relating to my daughter now that she's kind of teenager-y. She's a really good teenager - straight A's, funny, kind. But she does the eyeroll and sometimes she gets bored with adult stuff and answers in monosyllables. She's also a little bit critical (particularly of things like nutrition and my parents' refrigerator is full of processed food). My mother was angry that F wouldn't eat the peanut butter, but F read the label and wanted to know why it had like 15 ingredients. So my mom had a confrontation with her. Or an intervention. Something like that. We almost left, but we worked it out.
- We took the train home and it was 6 hours late! The trip was only supposed to be 18 hours, but it took 24.

Otherwise, GREAT!

We stopped at my parents' for a few days and then headed up the coast to San Luis Obispo, where I went to undergraduate.

Day 1 - ate picnic lunch on the beach in Santa Barbara (about half way there), went to see Cal Poly including the swine unit because F loves pigs, dinner at a place called Oki Momo which we all loved (good fresh food with lots of veggies)

Day 2 - Hearst Castle (upstairs tour - I've done the regular tour and this was way more fun - lots of steps!), then a few miles further up the coast to see the sea lions lying around (they are huge!) then back the other way to Morro Bay where we had lunch with my old college roommate. We had about an hour to relax before heading to Oceano for the Melodrama. F loved it and declared it the best part of the trip.

Day 3 - hike up Bishop's Peak, picnic lunch in a park, to Avila beach (where we built a sandcastle) and then to the Avila barns where we bought some fruit and petted the animals (for $1 you can buy a bag of lettuce to feed them). Dinner at Farmer's Market (the McClintock's BBQ truck was the best deal). Then an ice cream and we headed back to LA.

Back to my parents... where we had the NOT-great argument. (For the record, my mom didn't like me as a teenager either, and I was also a really good teenager - I didn't even try alcohol until I was 18, I didn't date or go out and party - I gave them very little to worry about; I was a know-it-all, eyerolling, snot, though).

But we also got to hang out with my dad in the pool, and we went to mini-golf with my brother, went to the aquarium after dropping him off at the airport, and we hiked to the top of Inspiration Point in Will Rogers State Park (twice). And we walked and walked and walked, which all three of us love.

And now very glad to be home.

We did spend more than I would have liked, but here is how we saved money on the trip:
- Stayed at my parents for most of it; free, and we were able to cook which freed up money to go out some nights
- Drove out (and D drove back because he had to be back at work)
- My parents don't want to travel to visit us, so they helped by buying the train ticket back for me and F
- Lots of picnics so we didn't eat out all the time
- Lots of hiking which is free!
- No souvenirs unless you count the olallibery jam we bought (but I put that in the food budget!)
- Mini golf was my brother's gift to F for her birthday
- The beach is free, too! We made a cool sandcastle

Not Quite Back to the 50s

June 13th, 2017 at 02:22 pm

I have started and abandoned and restarted this post several times... I kind of know what I want to say, but I'm afraid I will offend someone or sound like a whiny jerk.

Here goes anyway...

The situation before: D and I made almost exactly the same amount of money. I did most of the housework, but not all. My job was more flexible, but since his job was right in town, I could call on him to pick F up sometimes if I had a meeting. He worked from 9 to 5 with lunch (a little less than 8 hours) and I worked from 8 to 3 with another hour or two at home while F did her homework (so 8 hours also plus or minus). I drove her to school, picked her up, took her to practices.

Now: D is making A LOT more money. I am doing all of the housework because his commute adds about 20 or 25 mins. to either end of his day. My job is a lot more flexible, since he's in a nearby town. He works from 8 to 5 with an hour lunch (8 hours still) and my hours won't change.

Writing this, the primary things that have changed are that I now do all of the housework, and I don't have a support system built in if I have a meeting. Also it's slightly weird going from co-earner to my salary being much less than his.

Here are my thoughts:
- I am super grateful for the extra money!!
- I have lots of friends I can call on if I have a meeting scheduled for pick up time (and that's pretty rare; I can usually control that)
- I think that I'm feeling like my job is now discounted because it's more flexible (I can drive on a field trip, for example) and I now make a lot less; but we need my income (his current income alone is still less than what we made together, so I have to work)
- I was a little resentful about having both a full time job and doing 95% of the housework (another full time job! I work until everyone is in bed, essentially). But...
- I have worked that out in my head - I would much rather "pay" in housework to be the parent with the flexible job and be able to be with F as much as possible.
- D is terrible at housework - it takes him forever and he hates it.

D started his job last week and it took me until this morning to work this out. D has a commute and a boss and a "real" job (which is good for him... he liked coworkers and someone who is ultimately responsible) whereas I stay here in town, am my own boss and have a lot more control over my job (better for my personality type). And I get more time with F. And I pay for this privilege in housework.

I know some of you may suggest we get a cleaner, but the cleaning is really minor for me... it's the daily grind of breakfast dishes, putting dishes away, keeping dog hair off the floor, tidying up, getting lunches made, doing lunch containers/dishes, making dinner, doing the dinner dishes, getting the kitchen cleaned, making sure things are repaired when they need to be, buying groceries and putting them away.

I am curious if there are any other people in my position - I have stay-at-home friends I can talk to, but it's a little different because they don't have the added stress on their time of a job. And this is the part where I feel super whiny because this is such a first world problem; we have everything we need and now MORE money.

OK - need to go brush the dog and then go to a meeting (with F - it's summer - take-your-daughter-to-work season... see? flexible!).

PS - I definitely think this is a financial post. These are the kinds of things affecting working families, right?

Huge Grocery Bill- what happened?

May 28th, 2017 at 01:09 am

Not sure why our grocery bill was so big this week! I didn't buy much last week, so that's part of it, but still.

Other anomaly this week was that we had friends over this evening... so I bought things I wouldn't normally buy like sparking lemonade, an artichoke dip, sour cream for dip, etc. How much do you usually budget for get-togethers like this? According to receipts I spent about $28 and D got beer and wine last night which was $14.

Also - I'm making chicken queso casserole this week which will feed us for a couple of days.

And it's memorial day so I wanted to bbq something - I bought chicken and veggies to do kebabs.

We buy a lot of veggies and fruit; do you follow the 5 a day plan?
I think we are more than 5 a day.

Looking at the receipt, I also had to stock up on a couple of staples: res wine vinegar ($2), almond butter for D ($7!) and vanilla (also $7 but lasts 6 months).

A lot of this will take us into next week, so that's good, and there was leftover food from the party.

The rest of the meal plan:
Sunday - pasta with peas and turkey bacon
Monday - bbq chicken/courgettes/red onion/red pepper kebabs, corn on the cob
Tuesday - bad breath pasta (spinach, olives, capers, balsamic)
Wednesday - chicken queso casserole with kale chips on the side
Thursday - tostadas with refried beans, lettuce, salsa, sour cream and roasted broccoli
Friday - graduation dinner out!
Saturday - party and we don't have to bring anything!

Update on End of School Trip and Lots of Spending

May 26th, 2017 at 11:02 pm

Hi everyone... thought I'd give a quick update on F's end of the school year trip. Well, it didn't go well. Her anxiety was triggered by two things: she scraped her leg and was in a river and freaked herself out about it getting infected (but didn't ask the teachers for polysporin) and at camp, they used a communal washbasin which she declared completely unhygienic and then freaked out that she was going to get some awful disease from it. So there you go, her anxieties in a nutshell (oh, that and a fear of unhealthy foods and habits like too much screen time; it's a health thing).

She called me hysterical, and I had to pick her up. I wanted to go, pop in, calm her down, get a nearby hotel and see if I could get her to stay. The teachers felt the same, but the person at the camp (not part of the school) said that F would be compromising the "group continuity" if I came and went, or if she came and went. (By the way, these kids have been together for 6 years, so to me that is group continuity, and plus they all know F and her anxiety. It's not a secret, and the kids are all super supportive).

Plus, she was promised an alternative to one particularly scary part of the experience (walking 30' in the air in a slot canyon by pushing on either side) and the camp person said that there wouldn't be an alternative. I was asked to take her and not return.

So, step one was to calm F down, and explain that just getting in that van and driving 3 hours was an accomplishment given her fears, and spending the night was an accomplishment. She kept saying "you're not mad at me?" and said she felt like the adults all hated her and just wanted her to go.

Step two was to give her an alternative experience and not punish her for trying this trip, but reward her. I mean, she could have refused to go at all, but she tried so hard!

I took her to a hike at this crazy volcano and ice cave, then out to lunch (if you are ever in Grants, NM, which you won't be, this place is awesome). We got a hotel, and stayed the night and went to Acoma Pueblo the next day where we met the nicest Australians on our tour, and then to the Sandia Tram in Albuquerque where we went on another hike. None of this was super cheap, but it was worth it, and the money was in the vacation fund. We are not doing a big trip this year, so this mother-daughter thing was so worth it.

Now, back home, and I am just hoping that this doesn't break her confidence.

So, step 3 is to have a better plan for the upcoming Fall trip at her new school.
- I am thinking an opt-in configuration rather than opt-out. So instead of the "pick me up!" phone call, I will plan on picking her up unless she calls to say "I can stay." That was she will know that she only has to get to a certain point.
- Even if I go pick her up at the designated time, I want to work out with the school advisor that it could be a 10 minute hello and she can stay after we talk for a few minutes. Just seeing me for a few minutes and knowing I'm not hours away may be enough for her to stay.
- Work out that there is one person, not several, who help her if she is having a panic attack.
- Talk to her advisor and the middle school head and work out all the details ahead of time.
- If she is promised an alternative, they need to stick to that promise.
- Discussion with the advisor and middle school head about anxiety and that this isn't just an overprotected kid; we may ask the psychologist she saw last year for a letter.

Honestly, I think my wonderful daughter should be praised up and down for how she manages this. She is a straight-A student and an amazing athlete. She doesn't have social anxiety or school anxiety or public speaking anxiety. No one can even tell there's an issue. She meditates and has great techniques for managing her anxiety. But this was pushing her waaaaay past her comfort zone, and she still wanted to do the trip! So kudos to her!

The Next Couple of Days

May 20th, 2017 at 09:46 pm

Packing for F's school trip next week. It's a 3-night overnight which is hard for both her and me, but packing actually helps, because this way we know she'll be prepared. It's a control thing.

She is borrowing some of my things so that we don't have to buy anything except for a new notebook to write in. We'll go to Office Depot today. We have some little partly used notebooks, but I thought that for minimal cost it will be something nice and new to have that she can pick out herself.

She is taking my wool socks, my long underwear and a pair of my shoes (we share shoes, but I think soon her foot will be bigger than mine). D's headlamp. My sleeping bag (zero degree bag!).

While she is at the camp, I will be doing a lot of cleaning. Free. And watching Doctor Who (behind three episodes). Free. And working hard so that I can finish my work and have time when she's at home this summer to go to the pool a lot. Free.

Goal is no spending while she's away. I am saving so that we can go to a fancy dinner for her graduation from 6th grade.

I got an email from the school, and talked to the mom of one of F's classmates who has an older child who went on this trip 3 years ago, and they said they'll be sending email updates. One of the four teachers has been texting me to see how F is doing and said she'll text me. Another of the four teachers had a long talk with F and she felt better afterward.

I told him about the meditation app we use (it's called Calm and we do 7 days to calming anxiety over and over, not just for 7 days). Free, by the way.

Most of the kids just don't seem to care about going away, but as many of you know, F has some anxiety issues, and this trip pushes all of her buttons (separation from me, not knowing every last detail, not being completely in control).

On the flip side, she has no anxiety about school, public speaking or tests or anything like that. She just did a beautiful presentation with two friends on gender stereotypes. It was fun and engaging and all three girls were equally poised and prepared. The dad of a girl who was in another group (they, ironically, did stress/depression/anxiety) said that clearly F's group was the best. But they were really into the topic and spent a ton of time on it.

Also, not anxious about friendships stuff. We just went to see the 7th/8th grade musical (yes, free!) over at the school she's going to next year. And she saw a bunch of kids she knows in the audience and on stage. That's the advantage of a small town.

Next stop: the library which is open until 6 pm to pick up a book F read about. Free!!!

Update on All Sorts of Stuff

May 5th, 2017 at 10:48 pm

Our Coach: left today to stay with another family. I think this is the last coach we're hosting. I am sending the sheets through the wash twice (they smell like perfume!) and airing out the duvet. F didn't connect with this coach (she was kind of negative) and the smell-thing is just too hard for me. Even though we explained weeks before she arrived that she couldn't use perfume or scented products, she did anyway, and probably thought I wouldn't notice. I felt really ill one evening, and it's just not worth it.

Dinner Tonight: General Tso's chicken, rice, Chinese cabbage - a Chinese Fakeaway!

D's New Job: will start on June 5. In the meantime he gets to talk with HR about benefits. I've never worked for a big organization like this myself, so the idea of HR is pretty exciting to me. We will be putting aside an extra $140/month for gasoline, but I know he can carpool at least once a week.

Mortgage Principal: Got $65 for a craigslist sale yesterday and $64 from the gym today. We now owe $8722. Someone said "Oh, you should just pay it off now." That is a super weird thing to say - if we had an extra $8722 we would definitely put it toward mortgage principal!

Dog Fence: We need to fence in a small area for our dog. That is one of the things we'll do when D starts getting paychecks from the new job. But for right now it'll have to wait. Priorities. But I will submit the fence plan to our homeowner's association next week so that we can start when we're ready.

Soccer Tournament: A game at 9 and the next one at 2. What do you do for 3 hours between games? We may go to Albuquerque and get spring rolls. And then Sunday: game at 9, and maybe game at 2 (they'll need to win one of the other three games to earn a fourth game). There's no time to shop for food this weekend. Or clean. So I just vacuumed half the house and cleaned the birdcage, and put in a load of laundry. I'll clean the bathroom tonight.

Meal Plan for this Week:
- Chinese dinner
- tostadas
- ​lemon crumbed fish, rice, veg
- mexican eggs
- chicken in crockpot
- sausage pasta
- freezer with salad (basketball night)
- grilled cheese, tomato soup

Big News - Husband's New Job!

May 4th, 2017 at 03:21 pm

Oh my gosh - so excited! D applied for a job with the best employer in our state last year, but it's a government entity and moves at a glacial pace. Then they paused the hiring process. But a month ago they called him again and said that they were going to put the job back out and they wanted him to apply. His current work situation is fine (not great), but there has always been the background threat that it might close (several reasons). And his coworker who he really liked just got a new job about 2 weeks ago.

Anyway, the new employer called yesterday to tell him he got the job, and the salary is... $34,000 more than he's making now. I am not kidding. We are stunned.

Here's the brand new financial situation:
Me: $45,000 per year (perks are my business pays for health insurance and our celphones and home internet; I am self-employed so flexible hours)
D: $88,000 per year (perks are he gets health insurance and we get subsidized health insurance, a lot more vacation time, 401k with matching. What will cost more: gas to get there, maybe some clothes since it's a less casual environment).

Here is the debt that we need to deal with:
- $2680 that we owe back to ourselves for the tax bill we had on April 15 (we are paying ourselves back bit by bit)
- $2119 estimated taxes due June 15 (ugh - but my business will give a distribution for some of it since it's because of business profit last year)
- $8850 left on mortgage
- $?? - need to build a dog fence for our dog - not sure how much this will cost
- We have enough money to make the September school payment, but not enough to pay the October payment (short by $500) - but now we can cover this until our mortgage is paid off!

Lacking the Clothes Shopping Gene

April 30th, 2017 at 09:49 pm

We made a special trip down to Albuquerque today to get a graduation dress for F (they graduate from 6th grade).

Before we went, I made her go through everything in her closet and we had a huge pile of things that no longer fit. She has enough leggings, enough shorts, but she's very low on short sleeved tshirts and tank tops. Also her lightweight hoodie is too small, and that's a summer staple. And she has ONE skirt. And she needs clothes for 7th grade that she'll feel good in (I am a firm believer in that - remind me to tell you about my very sad wardrobe as a child sometime - I wore my school PE clothes on weekends because I wore a uniform during the week and my mother didn't think it was necessary for me to have other fall/winter clothes).

So, off to Albuquerque for the Big Clothing Challenge. She's now definitely a tween - so some kids clothes are ok, and some are not. Some adult x-small are ok, and some are not. She's tall and thin, with strong soccer player thighs (leggings are great, skinny jeans are horrible).

We found things at Old Navy and at H&M, but no graduation dress. I had no idea where to go. Old Navy and H&M (and Target) are pretty much the limit of my shopping expertise.

Our coach was with us, and she said we should try Hollister, which is the worst store in the universe. It's dark and it smells like some sort of weird scent that is supposed to evoke California (I am from there, and I can tell you it doesn't; also I have a headache from it). But we found the dress!

It was so perfect on her, and... the strap was detaching from the body. Except it was the the last one left. The only one (and miraculously in her size). When I went up to ask them about getting a discount since it was the last one, they said they wouldn't sell it to me. Whaaaaaat?

I said I didn't care about the discount, and they insisted they couldn't sell it to me. I explained that I can sew. They said they'd call to another mall to see if there was another dark blue, x-small. "You want me to go get this same dress in Rio Rancho??!!!" which is miles out of the way. They tried calling the Rio Rancho store, but they didn't have it.

I asked for the manager, and said to him: "I am buying this dress; ring it up for me NOW." I found out the guy I'd been talking to WAS the manger, but he sighed heavily and sold me the dress for 10% off. It was already on sale for $21, so now it was $19.

And, as I mentioned, I can sew. It's really not a problem.

Did I also mention that is the last time we shop at Hollister? And they gave me a website to take a survey about our "experience" there, which I am going to do.

Other places I'm never shopping again (because F hated their clothes): Rue21 (clothes are too fussy/complicated), Aeropostale (same problem). F likes simple, I like simple. Phew.

We didn't go into Express. Is that simple? Or more of the Rue21 type of stuff?

She doesn't need any more clothes right now (we got two tshirts, a 3/4 sleeve baseball shirt, 3 tank tops, cardigan and a jean skirt), but it'd be good to know where to go for next time. Gap and JCrew would be good if not so expensive, and I don't have the clothing gene to be able to shop in thrift stores (which are not very good here anyway).

Menu Plan with our Coach

April 30th, 2017 at 12:29 am

Had to slightly tailor our menu plan to fit our coaches likes/dislikes. She definitely doesn't like fish or seafood, so I had to adjust the meal plan slightly.

I have to be gluten free, and none of us eats beef or pork. Since she doesn't eat fish, that leaves only vegetarian, chicken or turkey for our mains.

I tried to alternate between vegetarian and non-vegetarian. Last night we had chicken queso casserole which is one of our favorites, but not sure if the queso and green chiles are completely normal to an English girl from the north! Oh well, we'll expose her to new things.

Tonight, though, is a dinner you can find in any English house... baked potatoes with green beans or maybe a salad.

S - asian meatballs with veg of some type
M - risotto with peas and sundried tomatoes
T - turkey burger for her and fish burgers for us with fries and rocket salad
W - pasta with red sauce and courgettes
T - quesadillas with guacamole, sour cream and salsa
F - She may be having dinner with us and maybe not... I'll make general tso's chicken and asian cabbage with rice
S - just us: lemon crumbed fish, rice, veg (back to fish!)

It's been kind of a challenge to my meal planning, but I think I've managed to balance everyone's food preferences with the budget!

Coach Coming to Stay

April 26th, 2017 at 12:08 am

Another Spring, another British soccer coach coming to stay with us!

This time it's about 10 days... no reimbursement from the Club (ugh; sometimes they really frustrate me - even $25 would help with food costs). It's a girl, and we're very excited because I met her and she loves both soccer and Harry Potter (so F's twin!).

She'll be here tomorrow, so tonight we're eating a very frugal dinner of polenta and salad. Tomorrow - chili with cornbread.

I need to get the sheets on her bed and quickly clean the bathroom (which is already clean, but you know...).

Tomorrow is a soccer practice night which is why the crockpot dinner. F's team is scrimmaging the boys' team.

In other news - her coach told me last night that his wife has basically gone AWOL (alcohol). They have a two year old, who he is now taking care of by himself. His parents are in town, and he has the two older kids to help (his daughter is on the team, too). I offered to help however I can - how could I not? I think some dinners over here would help. And I can watch the kids.

OK - need to go make a salad now, and start dumping things in the crockpot for tomorrow's chili (I put the crockpot in the fridge until morning; couldn't do it all in the morning - too crazy).

How we paid off almost $7500 in 4 months

April 19th, 2017 at 02:58 pm

Someone asked how we paid off $7500 in 4 months and I thought this would make a good post!

First of all, I have an excel spreadsheet that calculates pay down with additional principal payments. That has helped us know what we need to do to reach our goal.

Also - our regular payments are included in the $7500. The spreadsheet shows how much of our regular payment each month is interest and how much is principal (we are mostly principal now).

Here's the breakdown:

January: owe $18029
principal from regular payment - $1034
additional payments -
- 150 budgeted for principal paydown,
- 23.75 insurance refund from USAA, 70 gym payment for teaching,
- 312.05 net rental income from our Irish house (which was paid off a year ago; we pay an average of $400/month - one month 300 and the next month 500 but this is in euros, so it's a little more in dollars)

February: owe $16,400
principal from regular payment - $1039
additional payments -
- 150 budgeted for principal paydown
- 5.21 extra principal (because our escrow amount went down but we're still paying the same payment
- 57 gym payment for teaching
- 532.19 net rental income from our Irish house
- 38 consigned a coat and payment came through

March: owe $14,590
principal from regular payment - $1044
additional payments -
- 155.21 budgeted for principal paydown
- 86 gym payment for teaching
- 316.48 net rental income from our Irish house
- 67.5 D's side work

April: owe $12,910
principal from regular payment - $1044
additional payments -
- 155.21 budgeted for principal paydown
- 5.21 - my banking mistake, but I made it up in another category
- 75 gym payment for teaching
- 318.56 net rental income from our Irish house
- 75 D's birthday gift which he used part of and put this amount toward the mortgage - that was nice of him!
- 633.37 - distribution from work (long story, but I took a distribution and decided to pay down mortgage principal with it)

Now owe: $10,600

Our circumstances are very different now that our Irish house is paid off. D bought it for $100k Irish pounds (back before the euro!). We did not pay down principal since the interest rate was low; we just did regular payments until it was paid off. It is rented out to two friends. We feel ok taking $400/month out to help pay down our mortgage here. The rest of the rent money is for repairs and taxes.

If it helps, our take home pay every month is $6446. Of this, we pay $850 toward tuition and $800 toward our IRA's (we are trying for $1000). I will post our full budget soon. Not sure what other people make, but I am happy to be transparent if it helps someone!

Thinking about Mortgage Payoff

April 16th, 2017 at 10:49 pm

I am starting to think about paying off our house, and so I looked up some info on the internet.

Here's what I found:
- If you ask for a payoff amount, they charge you a fee! Well, I won't need a payoff amount - I'm just going to pay until it's done. There may be $20 or so that they owe me back.
- They charge you to record the payoff with the County - so I am going to check with the County and see what that recording fee is

I asked my bank (which is a smallish local bank) if I could meet with a loan officer about our impending payoff (probably 4 or 5 months off) and the woman said I couldn't make an appointment, that they would need to contact me. She asked if our loan was there (um, yes, otherwise why would I want to talk to them?). Then she said "So this is a refi," and I realized that she misunderstood and thought I wanted a new loan. I explained that I didn't want a new loan, that I was going to pay off our mortgage in full in a couple of months. And she looked at me blankly. But she took down my info and said someone would contact me to make an appointment.

Do you think someone will contact me? I don't. But I have a couple of months to work on this and find out what happens next.

For those of you who have paid off your mortgage (and I know it's different in different states) how does this work? Do I cancel my automatic payments? What were the fees?

I can't even ask my parents because they still have a mortgage. I have two friends whose mortgages are paid off, so I'm going to ask them how it worked. I like to know ahead of time.

PS - paid off another $75 from the gym payment for this month, so we now owe $10,600.

Financial Things Happening Today

April 7th, 2017 at 10:23 pm

1. When I was looking through recent transactions on our online checking, I saw a $10 fee charge. No idea what it is. At first I thought it might be part of our tuition because it came a day later and I called the tuition management people to scream, but it isn't them! The bank had no idea what it is either. They said I should come in and dispute the charge.

2. Nissan finally called me to tell me my airbag is in! So I took my car over there and asked them to do the service I need at the same time. The good news is that Nissan USA gave me a $250 voucher toward Nissan service (or products) and I can use that to pay for the service (it's a biggish one - 75k mile).

3. Did not get my gym payment yet (boo hoo!) for last month. I've bugged them twice already since April started.

4. French dinner tonight.... my daughter said "Isn't that just a fancy name for a goody plate?" and I didn't have the heart to tell her that even a goody plate is a fancy name - something my mom made up when I was little that meant eating all sorts of stuff from the fridge to use it up! (French dinner is cheese, crackers, olives and whatever else is in the fridge - plus a salad made from the rocket/arugula we have growing in our garden).

5. Current tv program we're watching is MasterChef (the UK one; I don't know if there's another one) on the bbc iplayer. It's hard to keep up with - three episodes a week.

6. F has started talking about her birthday party. She wants a sleepover with some friend and a sort of Harry Potter theme (they may make a "movie" with wand duels). I am looking up recipes for butterbeer ice cream but may just swirl butterscotch into vanilla ice cream. This is not going to be a costly birthday at all, so I told her I'd take her and a friend down to the mini-golf/go-kart/bumper boats/arcade place in Albuquerque on her actual birthday.

7. We are thinking of hosting a coach again for soccer camp. They give us a stipend and we end up breaking even pretty much. It's such a great experience, though... worth it even if we spend a little more. Like having a very sweet, 20-something, soccer-playing houseguest.

Holiday Update (with Photos)

April 6th, 2017 at 10:33 pm

It's been a long time since I've written anything - oops!

I guess I should give an update on our Fairly Frugal Holiday.

It was super fun! If any of you are ever in Southern New Mexico (I can't see why you would be, though, unless you live in West Texas) you should definitely see Carlsbad Caverns and White Sands National Monument.

Day 1 - Three Rivers Petroglyphs - a billion petroglyphs! It was so cool! Ate lunch from our cooler under one of the picnic benches. It was a $5 entrance fee. Went on to Alamogordo where we went to the toy train museum and checked into our hotel which had a pool. Hotel was free with my mom's points. Ate dinner from the cooler heated in the microwave.



Day 2 - White Sands (brought our sleds and it was so much fun!!). Then the pistachio ranch where we got pistachios for the people watching our pets, and also took a photo with a giant concrete pistachio, and also tried every sample they had! Then the Space Museum. Entrance for all three of us with an IMAX was $20. Breakfast was free at the hotel, and we ate lunch and dinner from the cooler. Did I mention that food in Alamogordo is... not great. So this was not just to save money.



Day 3 - Drove to Carlsbad (NM) and swam in the pool for a bit, then went to the river and got a pedal boat ($10). Breakfast was at the Alamogordo hotel, and dinner was from the cooler. We ate lunch out in Carlsbad. The hotel was free (I had a free night) and had a real kitchenette, not just a microwave.



Day 4 - Carlsbad Caverns - gorgeous and a total natural wonder! Admission was $20 total. A bargain. We had breakfast at our hotel (and ran into friends - isn't that weird? and then again in the Caverns - different friends!). We were out of lunch things in the cooler, but had some fruit and snack stuff, so we supplemented with food from the Visitor Center; it wasn't worth it. Then the long drive home. We managed to get home by dinner which was good because it was astounding how few towns there are between Carlsbad and Santa Fe. F decided to skip the alien museum in Roswell.

I didn't get any decent photos, but my husband did... but you should look it up - it's such a cool place.

The trip was a good length, and cost us a total of about $200 with admissions, food and everything.

And now we owe $10,674 on our house; the low-key vacation really helped us with the mortgage - I paid off a bunch this month!

Lunch Planning: Like Meal Planning but Lunchier

March 26th, 2017 at 11:54 pm

​I have probably told you that I have to be gluten free. This is not a choice (celiac genes, digestive issues, microscopic colitis) and I know a lot of other people have to be on a gf diet, too or choose to be so that they don't have symptoms (there are a lot of diverse symptoms).

This is my Lunch Planning (and includes my daughter's lunch plan, too). My husband is on his own, because he makes his own lunch, but I can tell you what he eats, too.

My husband:
- leftovers or a turkey sandwich (or tuna sandwich on Thursdays when I make two can's worth of tuna)
- apple
- tortilla chips
Yes, that's what he eats every day. I would get so bored.

My daughter:
she gets veggies and dip, a piece of fruit, some chips/crisps and a cookie, and then a main, following this basic schedule:
- Monday - hot lunch (this is something pre-made from the store like Trader Joe's chicken strips or potstickers in her thermos and is in lieu of the very expensive and disgusting school hot lunches)
- Tuesday - turkey and cheese wrap (in a tortilla)
- Wednesday - bean and cheese burrito
- Thursday - tuna wrap with avocado
- Friday - mac and cheese or a quesadilla with a salad (instead of veggies and dip)

My lunch plan:
I also toss in a piece of fruit and chips/crisps, sometimes carrots, too. Her lunch coordinates with mine (so if she's having refried beans in a burrito, I have them on a corn tortilla)
- Monday - one egg (hardboiled or fried), string cheese or goat cheese with chips
- Tuesday - turkey sandwich with cheese rolled in lettuce
- Wednesday - Beans and cheese between corn tortillas
- Thursday - tuna with avocado
- Friday - Salad

This meal plan limits what I need to buy each week: one cucumber, some radishes, lettuce, tortillas (corn and flour) but only once every two weeks, some cheese, one packet of turkey, one can of refried beans, two cans of tuna, an avocado, a couple of types of chips (usually tortilla chips and one other type), a couple of types of fruit. I always have eggs on hand. Oh! and something for F's "hot lunch."

Do you have to eat gluten free? Do you use Lunch Planning like meal planning?

"Back in Time" Series

March 21st, 2017 at 09:16 pm

One of my absolute favorite tv series is Back in Time... where they send a family "back in time" to cook and eat and live like another era. The first series had them going back to the 40s and then moving forward to the 90s with each day being a year. They even transformed their house!

It's a great show to watch with kids, too - entertaining but also educational. F wondered at how I survived the 70s (which I thought was the perfect time to be a kid!)

I can't believe we missed Farther Back in Time! Need to catch up fast since the final episode expires in 12 days.

Frugality (or lack of frugality which in this case often means convenience) is a major theme, or at least an undercurrent.

Speaking of that, tonight's dinner: roast potatoes and a big salad (big salad, as opposed to our regular dinner salad, has whatever is on hand, but tonight will have grated carrot, cucumbers, cut up turkey, sunflower seeds, radishes, homemade dressing).

Frugal Holiday Starts... Now!

March 19th, 2017 at 02:24 am

We haven't left home yet, but decided that our frugal holiday started today anyway.

F had two soccer games (tied one, won one) and afterward we went down to Albuquerque for dinner. Vietnamese! Yum! We decided to eat out because we won't be eating out much on our holiday next week. The food isn't very good where we're going, so we have hotel rooms with microwaves and fridges and we'll be bringing our own food.

Tomorrow we'll go back to Albuquerque to see Beauty and the Beast in IMAX 3d. And eat out again. This is part of our holiday, too.

We leave officially on Wednesday, and now I'm thinking we're very smart because that's when the weather up here turns cold. It'll be in the mid 70s down south, so we'll follow the good weather.

Hotel rooms are all FREE. My mom had points and gave them to us for two nights, and we had a free night at a Marriott hotel for the third night. Both hotels have free wifi and pools and breakfast in the morning.

Petsitting - all done by friends for FREE taking turns. We'll bring them each back something small (freeze-dried ice cream from the space museum? some alien thing from Roswell?).

We'll need to pay for fuel, admission to White Sands (but we have our sleds ready!), admission to Carlsbad Caverns and probably a parking fee at the Petroglyphs. I think the solar observatory is free.

I'm pretty happy to have a vacation... It's been a long weird winter. And we're $12,910 from paying off the mortgage. I can see the finish line, and I don't want to lose momentum, so frugal is key right now.

Are you going anywhere for Spring Break?


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